All stories ©Todd Robinson
An Introduction, George Lucas-ing, and a Confession…
Name's Todd Robinson.
Not sure what else to go with by way of introduction…
Some of you (I would assume most of you who dropped coin on the collection in the first place) might have some idea who I am. If you don't, good luck and God bless.
If you DO know me, it's probably through the website THUGLIT that I created and edited for five years (and its subsequent anthologies). Maybe you've seen one or more of my stories floating around the web or in one of the publications that have blessed me with acceptance over the years.
Or maybe I just harangued you into buying the fucking thing while you were sitting at the bar.
Yeah, I'm a bartender. That means that you'll see some connective tissues between the stories other than characters. Write what you know. I know bars, the people who work there, the people who drink there. The damaged souls, the weirdos, the characters, the alcoholics, junkies, the lonely, and everybody in between. I love these people, warts and all. I consider some of the most damaged my friends. I hope that by the end of these stories, you will too.
Either way, thanks for being here. All monies derived go to a couple of good causes. First of which are the goddamn cat's medical bills. For the record? The cat is dead. His bills aren't.
The second is taking my kid to Disneyland for the first time.
Hey, I said good causes, I never said charity. And if dead cats and taking nice kids to Disneyland don't qualify as good causes to you, you're probably a prick.
Where were we?
Oh yeah. Introductions.
At this point, you might be thinking that I'm a prick, what with the previous paragraphs and all, blah, blah, blah. I wouldn't disagree with you. If that's the case, buckle up, Buttercup, because the stories you got coming are no more pleasant than I am.
So if you normally spend your hard-earned loot on crime stories that feature a nice scone recipe, you might as well stop right here. It ain't gonna get any better for you.
I won't take it personally; hell, my mother agrees with you. However, long as you're not like my mother, you might dig what lies ahead. Hope you do.
In the grand tradition of Mr. Lucas (and running the risk of fucking it all up), not all of the stories collected here are as they were when originally printed. Like most writers, I couldn't resist the urge to tweak the prose, correct some questionable phrasings, and sometimes just flat-out change shit. For instance, two separate characters in two different stories had the same first name. In order to maintain an even flow between stories, one of them had to adopt a sudden alias.
HOWEVER, there was one story that required a drastic facelift. The story was fine, the characters and dialogue worked, but some of the prose was just awful. I mean…just really awful. It was an early published tale, and I'm glad and grateful that it got picked up, but for the life of me, I have no idea how somebody thought it was overall fit to print.
So, if you notice some changes between a story you may have read before and one collected here and it bugs you, seriously…you need a hobby.
A Confession (or two)
Before I get a bunch of angry e-mails from those of you who read HARDCORE HARDBOILED, the first of the THUGLIT anthologies, I'm Sam Edwards.
When I first started the website, we didn't have enough submissions for the first issue. I mean, we did, but for some reason, we got a shitload of stories that didn't necessarily fit our bill. Yeah, that's a nice story about visiting your grandfather's grave in Argentina, but what in sweet fuck-all does it have to do with crime fiction?
You get my point.
I was committed to getting the first issue up, but lo and behold, I didn't have enough material. So I dusted off "The Long Count", one of my trunk stories, and threw it up under Sam Edwards (Sam and Edward being the first names of my grandfathers). I didn't tell my other editors.
Then the dang thing gets selected by BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES as a "Notable Story of the Year".
I kept my mouth shut. The biggest honor of my short writing career, and I couldn't tell anybody. THAT kinda sucked.
Then, when Kensington books decided to print our anthologies, of course they insisted that I include all of the award-nominated/winning stories.
I decided to get clever.
Sam Edward's bio reads:
Truly other digests deserving recognition on bios, instead, Nasty Sam offers nothing.
Now, take the first letter in each word…
Yeah, nobody figured it out then either. I only spent about three days writing out the acrostic. Time well spent, no?
Oh, and if you actually bought any copies and had the book signed at an event by Sam? That was really Julius Franco, my best friend and co-conspirator in all of life's misadventures since the age of thirteen.
Aaaaaaand some of you may recognize the THUGLIT story (and Derringer-nominated short) "Roses at his Feet" as written by Ms. Dana Frittersmash.
Uh, yeah. I'm her, too.
Again, if you've already read that one, I'm reeeeeeally sorry. But hey, you still got nine more stories here!
Lemme explain (again…)
After the first issue, I hard-marketed the website online and at BoucherCon, the annual crime writing festival. For issues two and three, I was FLOODED with submissions.
Issue four? Sahara. Still managed to put a great issue together.
Then, two days before we were set to launch the issue, a writer inexplicably pulled his piece (this is also why that cover is so shitty and slapped-together-looking). In response, I panicked, made a pot of coffee and stayed up all night writing the story.
The next morning, seeking a new pen name, I accidentally stepped on the apple fritter my wonderful wife had brought me while watching the previous night's UFC interview with Dana White.
Bada-bing, bada-boom, Dana Frittersmash.
Next thing I know, THAT story is nominated for a Derringer.
Although I have to admit that I did emit a few chuckles when I read the letter from the Derringer committee asking for Ms. Frittersmash's contact info.
And that was that. I never wrote another story under a pen name, although I should, considering the amount of accolades my alter-egos receive.
Maybe my reputation precedes me…ENJOY, FUCKO!
So Long, Johnnie Scumbag
Johnnie sat behind the glass partition in his prison oranges, huffing a Newport. Obese, pale and tired-looking, jail hadn't been kind to him. Not that it's particularly kind to anybody. His dyed black hair was starting to show its brown roots, giving his head a layered chocolate cake look. Johnnie smelled bad to begin with, but the stint in lock-up wasn't doing his hygiene any favors. It might have been my imagination, but I could have sworn that I could smell him through the inch and a half of plexiglass. I tried to cover his stink of garlic mixed with wet dog by chain smoking, until the guard informed me of the no smoking policy.
Christ. Can't even smoke in jail. I wondered what the hell passed for currency on the yard since 2003.
I'd just have to breathe through my mouth then. What I needed was a drink. As it was, I interrupted my day's barflying to see Johnnie in the first place.
"T.C., I need you on this, man," he said. Not that he didn't cut a pathetic picture to begin with, but his blubbering only made him seem fatter. Maybe it was my own word association with blubber.
"Tell me why I should, Johnnie."
"'Cause I didn't do this!"
"Again Johnnie, tell me why I should give a shit." I wanted an answer and I wanted it fast. I didn't enjoy being at Riker's, even if it was a friend in there. And in case you didn't have it figured out by now, I'm not a big fan of Johnnie Scumbag's. Nobody really is. The people who
"Because I don't have a lot of time and you're the only person who can do it."
I wasn't, but I was probably the only one who'd shown up when Johnnie called. My services, no matter how mundane, don't come cheap. In the sudden economic slide in New York City, jobs had been so scarce lately that I was even willing to show up for Johnnie Scumbag. Most people who would've been clients a year ago tried to do their own work instead in order to save a few bucks. Most of them wound up on Johnnie's side of the glass. If they were lucky.
"Convince me with a number," I said.
"Five grand," Johnnie said, hopefully.
"Six." I tried to keep my feet from fidgeting in my shoes. Jail gives me the heebie-jeebies. Probably because something deep inside told me that I would end up in one eventually.
"Jeannie Giammarino told me to remind you that you owe her a grand off the last Klitchko fight."
"What, she think I was gonna welsh?" Johnnie puffed his chest out in a pose of dignified disbelief.
"The fight was in January. She's been waiting five months."
"I was getting the money together."
"Yeah. And the check's in the mail." He spoke to me as ...